clinical Qatar gets the job done, defeats Korea to secure semifinal berth
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: A superb second-half Abdelaziz Hatim goal proved the difference as Qatar beat Korea Republic 1-0 to claim a place in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 semi-finals on Friday.
Hatim’s thunderous effort from distance settled a tense yet absorbing affair, one which sees Qatar head into their first-ever AFC Asian Cup semi-final in what is the nation’s tenth appearance in the competition.
n the process, Qatar, who had just five clean sheets in their first 32 Asian Cup games from nine tournaments, completed another five in UAE to take another slice of history.
Qatar will now take on the winner of the last quarterfinal match between UAE and Australia.
The odds were heavily stacked against Qatar against Korea and Al Annabi were handicapped by the absence of two of their key players – Abdulkarim Hassan and Assim Madibo —-through suspension.
But Qatar, showing amazing spirit and resilience, coolly went on with their job and pounced when they got the opportunity.
Korea had the bulk of the possession in the first half, but Qatar, who looked nervous at the start, were happy to let them have it and wait for their opportunity.
And their first real break came in the 20th minute when Akram Afif came up with the ball in the midfield and released his strike partner Almoez Ali, but the tournament top-scorer lost his footing when he was about to pull the trigger.
Afif then shot straight at Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu after a good move as Qatar gained in confidence.
Right back Pedro Miguel’s surging run into the box in the 36th minute had Korea in all sorts of trouble, but he scuffed his final pass and Hatem, in his attempt to get to the end of that ball, was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Ju Se-Jong.
The caution ruled Hatem out of the semifinal along with Bassam Al Rawi who also was shown a yellow for a foul on Hwang Ui-Jo, but those were least of Qatar’s worries as they looked to cross the Korean hurdle.
Despite Korea’s domination in possession, they could not really trouble the Qatari defence, where Boualem Khoukhi, positioned between Al Rawi and Tarek Salaman, was calmness personified.
Korea tested Sadd Al Sheeb for the first time in the 48th minute and the Qatar keeper was up to the task in parrying away Hwang Ui-Jo’s shot.
Afif then had his shot blocked moments later as Qatar split Korea defence wide open with a fast counter.
The match became a more open affair all of a sudden and Almoez’s shot, after a neat, patient build-up, was straight at Korean goalkeeper Kim.
Korean star forward Son Heung-Min, who has been terrorising defences in the Premier League, was not allowed much of space by the five-man Qatari defence and was restricted to having just one shot at goal.
Even that attempt came after Khoukhi slipped at the crucial moment, but luckily for Qatar, Son’s left-footer was straight at Al Sheeb.
Tarek Salman, who also had an excellent game along with plenty of his teammates, was penalised for a foul on Kim Jin-Su just outside the box and the resulting freekick taken by the Korean defender’s himself, hit the upright, with Al Sheeb totally beaten.
Then came Qatar’s moment of the match and Hatem, who has been one of the revelations for them since replacing Karim Boudiaf in the opening match, was the man of that moment.
After picking up Akram Afif’s horizontal ball from 30 yards, Hatem looked up once to lock his target before unleashing an unstoppable grounder to the left of Kim Seung-Gyu, who made a desperate dive to stop the ball.
Though Korea immediately put the ball in Qatar net, VAR ruled out the goal for offside, with coach Felix Sanchez screaming at his wards for momentarily losing their concentration.
They regained their composure and moments later an acrobatic volley by Khoukhi almost gave Qatar a second goal and Korea needed alert goalkeeping from Kim to keep them in the game.
Qatar safely negotiated the final few minutes of the game and celebrated one of their most famous victories ever.